This is a title Mobile Fidelity ruined (what else is new?), and having just played an early Riverside LP I can see how their mastering approach was — as is so often the case — misguided to say the least.
First off, the guitar and the drums on the original are tonally right on the money. They sound like bass and drums should. They sound, in a word, correct.
(The Wes Montgomery MoFi title has many of the same faults, but it’s not quite as bad as this one. We’ve had Hot Stamper copies of the originals so we know they can sound superb, some of RVG’s best work.)
The old Mobile Fidelity — the pre-Heavy Vinyl Mobile Fidelity — rarely met a master tape they didn’t think needed a healthy dose of top end boost. They also never understood what an acoustic guitar sounds like. They blew it on every last one of the Cat Stevens albums, brightening up the guitars, which, as we all know from playing with the treble controls on our receivers way back when, emphasizes the “picking” of the strings at the expense of the resonating guitar body as well as the vibrating string harmonics.
What makes Byrd At The Gate a good record is the natural acoustic guitar tone. Once you screw that up, what’s left?
An audiophile record, for audiophiles who like phony sounding guitars. (Chesky anyone?)
Another reason the Mobile Fidelity is such a joke is that this recording inherently has a lot of ill-defined bass. Since Half-Speed mastering causes a loss of bass definition, their pressing is even WORSE in this respect. Bad guitars, bad drums and bad bass — that pretty much covers everybody in the trio. Resulting score: 0 for 3.
This is a listening pleasure to the first degree. Unlike any other, Charlie Byrd sincerely knows how to make his instrument speak, sending graceful chords and melodies to this attentive audience… Cheers to the Charlie Byrd Trio for a dynamic effort during this May 1963 gig. Applause, applause.
FURTHER READING on the subject of Half-Speed Mastering
People have been known to ask us:
At the very least let us send you a Hot Stamper pressing — of any album you choose — that can show you what is wrong with your copy. And if for some reason you disagree that our record sounds better than yours, we will happily give you all your money back and wish you the best.
To learn more about records that sound dramatically better than any Half-Speed ever made (with one rare exception, John Klemmer’s Touch), please consult our FAQs:
Below you will find our breakdown of the best and worst Half-Speed mastered records we have auditioned over the years.
New to the site? Start here.